oats, coriander, thick green oil

Some years ago Catherine undertook a wholesale renovation of the room we variously refer to as “the office” and “the library.” I think she needed a plausible excuse to build a custom liquor cabinet, and things ballooned from there.

Below the bookshelves (and the liquor) are cupboards and drawers that I’ve seldom, if ever, looked inside. Today I decided to tackle them, thus encountering what amounts to the last significant cache of Catherinilia in the house.

I was only able to handle one cupboard, not because it was emotionally overwhelming, but because, well, what does one do with these things?

A WKRP in Cincinnati VHS box set. A brass candle stick. A half bottle of dry sherry. A 2007 calendar. Three ping pong rackets. A vase. A wooden truncheon. Several picture frames. A set of Victorian stereoscopic photos with viewer. A bag of paper coin rollers.

None debilitatingly cumbersome on its own, but together presenting an overwhelming “what the heck do I do with this?!” challenge.

The poem Want by Joan Larkin begins:

She wants a house full of cups and the ghosts of last century’s lesbians; I want a spotless apartment, a fast computer. She wants a woodstove, three cords of ash, an axe; I want a clean gas flame. She wants a row of jars: oats, coriander, thick green oil; I want nothing to store. She wants pomanders, linens, baby quilts, scrapbooks. She wants Wellesley reunions. I want gleaming floorboards, the river’s reflection.

As a friend has pointed out in reaction to my earlier ruminations about The Mountain of Things, Catherine and I could each play either role in that poetic drama: for every bottle of Dewar’s tucked away in a library cupboard, there was, at least at one point, a suitcase full of old telephones and computer manuals from 1988 in the attic.

Now that I’m the one left standing, though, the bottles of oats and coriander and thick green oil are equal parts reminders of my fallibility and hers, and digging through them by myself is sad and freeing and frustrating and emancipating all at once.

Maybe it was too emotionally overwhelming to open more than one cupboard.


Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on February 14, 2021 - 15:59 Permalink

I’ll take the coin rollers and the sherry.

vbj's picture
vbj on February 14, 2021 - 19:36 Permalink

It's a very handsome liquor cabinet.

Donna Glass's picture
Donna Glass on February 15, 2021 - 22:21 Permalink

Beautiful Tribute. I too am impressed with the books and liquor cabinet